Category Archives: Google LatLong Blog

News and notes by the Google Earth and Maps team

How Google Maps APIs are fighting HIV in Kenya

In 2015, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and mobile analytics solutions provider iVEDiX  came together to create the HIV Situation Room, a mobile app designed to help fight the HIV epidemic in Kenya. The app uses Google Maps APIs to create a comprehensive picture of HIV prevention efforts, testing and treatment — and make this programmatic data accessible both to local staff in clinics and others on the front lines, as well as to policy makers.

We sat down with Taavi Erkkola, senior advisor on monitoring and evaluation for UNAIDS, and Brian Annechino, director of government and public sector solutions for iVEDiX, to hear more about the project and why they chose Google Maps APIs to help them in the fight against HIV.

How did the idea for the UNAIDS HIV Situation Room app come about?

Taavi Erkkola: As of 2015, UNAIDS estimates a total of 36.7 million people living with HIV globally. Of those, 2.1 million are newly infected, with approximately 5,700 new HIV infections a day. Sixty-six percent of all infected by HIV reside in sub-Saharan Africa, and approximately 400 people infected per day there are children under age 15. To effectively combat HIV, we need access to up-to-date information on everything from recent outbreaks and locations of clinics, to in-country educational efforts and inventory levels within healthcare facilities. UNAIDS has a Situation Room at our headquarters in Geneva that gives us access to this kind of worldwide HIV data. But we wanted to build a mobile app that provided global access to the Situation Room data, with more detail at a national, county and facility-level.

We tested out the app in Kenya because the country has a strong appetite for the use of technology to better its citizens’ health. Kenyan government agencies, including the National AIDS Council, encouraged organizations like Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (KEMSA) and the Ministry of Health to contribute their disease control expertise and data to the Situation Room solution. Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta was an early advocate, and has demonstrated his government’s commitment to making data-driven decisions, especially in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

UNAIDS-1

Why did UNAIDS and iVEDiX choose Google Maps, and how did you use Google Maps APIs to build the HIV Situation Room app?

Brian Annechino: In Kenya, more than 80 percent of adults own a cell phone, and Android is by far the most popular operating system. Google Maps APIs are available across all platforms, including native APIs for Android, and Google Maps also offers the kind of fine-grained detail we needed — for example, the locations of more than 7,500 Kenyan healthcare facilities servicing the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Using data from multiple sources along with Google Maps, we can map things like a clinic’s risk of running out of antiretroviral medicine.

Onix, a Google Premier Partner, identified the right Google Maps components to build the app and helped us procure the licensing we needed. We used the Google Maps Android API to build the main interface. Since it was important to have the most accurate and up-to-date map data for Kenya to support the effort, we used the Street View feature of the Google Maps Android API to let people zoom into the street level and see clinics that offer HIV services in locations where Street View imagery is available.

TE: These mapping capabilities are critical because we need to give our county-level users as much insight as possible on service delivery at health facilities. Decision-makers in HIV response are at national and county-level. In this app, we’re able to combine multiple data sources to get a more comprehensive picture of HIV prevention efforts, testing and treatment across these levels.

What kind of data does the HIV Situation Room app display?

TE: The app taps into three data sources. The first is UNAIDS data set about country-by-country HIV estimates. The second is Kenya’s District Health Information System, which has detailed information from all 47 Kenyan counties — everything from the number of people treated at a specific hospital for HIV, to the number of HIV+ pregnant women attending clinics for visits, to the number of condoms distributed by each facility. The third data set will include community level data, which can also contain survey responses from clients about the quality of service they receive.

UNAIDS-2

How does the HIV Situation Room use the data?

TE: By overlaying our inventory data and field notes on a map, we can see patterns and identify trends that help us respond quickly and plan efficiently. For example, if we see breakouts occurring in a particular area, we can monitor HIV test kits in that area or increase educational efforts for target communities.

Have you seen signs that your efforts are making a difference in Kenya?

TE: One of our biggest successes in Kenya is that the app is used by the highest-level decision-makers in the country — President Kenyatta uses the app — as well as people on the front lines fighting HIV, such as program managers. Using the app, policy makers have more information than ever before, and as a result, are able to devise more effective solutions by combining insights at the local and program coordination levels. We see it as an extremely powerful tool for fighting HIV — and we’re looking to bring this tool to other countries in Africa soon.

Source: Google LatLong


Keep track of your favorite places and share them with friends

Is your bucket list etched in your memory, or scribbled on a dozen post-it notes scattered around your home? Have you ever promised out-of-town guests an email full of your favorite spots, only to never get around to clicking send? Starting today, you can create lists of places, share your lists with others, and follow the lists your friends and family share with you—without ever leaving the Google Maps app (Android, iOS).


Getting started is easy. Simply open the Google Maps app and find that BBQ spot you’ve been wanting to try. Tapping on the place name and then the “Save” icon adds the place to one of several pre-set lists like “Want to Go” or “Favorites.” You can also add the restaurant to a new list that you name yourself, like “Finger Lickin’ BBQ.” To recall the lists you’ve created, go to Your Places (in the side menu) and then open the saved tab. Icons for the places you’ve saved to lists will appear on the map itself, so you’ll always know whether one of your must-try BBQ spots is nearby.


Because sharing is caring, we made it easy to share lists like “Best Views in SF” via text, email, social networks and popular messaging apps. Whenever friends and family come to town, tap the share button to get a link and start flexing your local knowledge muscles. Once you send a link to your out-of-towners, they can tap “Follow” to pull up the list from Your Places whenever they need it. Here’s how it all works in real life:

Lists on Google Maps

The lists you follow are with you wherever you take Google Maps and are viewable on mobile and desktop—and even offline. Next time you're on a trip, download offline maps of the area in advance and you'll be able to see all the places you’ve added to lists on the map itself.


With the millions of landmarks, businesses and other points of interest in Google Maps, there’s no shortage of places to try. Now that we’ve got the world mapped, it’s your turn to map your world with Lists—from local hotspots to bucket list destinations worlds away.


Source: Google LatLong


Know before you go: parking difficulty on Google Maps

It’s Friday night and you hit the road early enough to make it to a movie, grab some buttery popcorn, and catch the previews. But when you get to the theater, parking is hard to come by and you spend the next 20 minutes circling the lot and side streets until a spot finally opens up. You get to your seat just in time for the opening credits…and no popcorn!  


Factoring in time for parking can make or break a night out, let alone making it to that big meeting on time. So in 25 metro areas throughout the U.S., we’ve introduced a new parking difficulty icon in Google Maps for Android that’ll give you a heads up on what kind of parking crunch to prepare for when you’re on the go.

Parking-Limited

To see how hard it might be to park where you’re headed, just get directions to your destination and look for the parking difficulty icon in the directions card at the bottom of the screen. Parking difficulties range from limited to medium to easy and are based on historical parking data (similar to how we calculate Popular Times and Visit Duration).


For now, look out for parking difficulty icons in the following metro areas across the U.S.: San Francisco, Seattle, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, St. Louis, Tampa, Washington, DC, Cleveland, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Portland and Sacramento.

Source: Google LatLong


Booking fitness classes just got a whole lot easier

After a holiday season full of delightful indulging, millions of people make an optimistic New Year’s resolution to stay fit or lose the extra pounds they put on from those festive parties and family get-togethers. To help, starting today we’re piloting a new way to easily book fitness and wellness classes. Reserve with Google will be available in Los Angeles, New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, to make keeping up with your resolutions easier than ever.

To book a fitness class, visit the Reserve with Google site on desktop or mobile web. There you can search for fitness studios near you, get great recommendations for fun new classes, or book a spot in the session you already know and love.

How it Works

Over the coming days, you’ll be able to do this right from Google Maps and Google Search, as well.

Reserve with Google Google Maps on desktop
Reserve with Google on Mobile Search

Reserve with Google is possible through deep partnerships with top scheduling providers you may already use, including MINDBODY, Full Slate, Front Desk, Appointy — and we’ll be adding more, like zingFit, MyTime, and Genbook soon.

So pull out your yoga mat, dust off your running shoes, and fill up that water bottle. Reserve with Google will help make completing your New Year’s resolution as easy as click, click, booked.

Source: Google LatLong


Let your loved ones know you’re safe with our new personal safety app

Whether it’s hiking alone or walking down a street after dark — sometimes you want to know someone's got your back. To help you feel safe and give your friends and family peace of mind, today we're launching Trusted Contacts. This new personal safety app lets you share your location with loved ones in everyday situations and when emergencies arise — even if your phone is offline or you can’t get to it. 

Here’s how it works: Once you install the Android app, you can assign “trusted” status to your closest friends and family. Your trusted contacts will be able to see your activity status — whether you’ve moved around recently and are online — to quickly know if you're OK. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe, you can share your actual location with your trusted contacts. And if your trusted contacts are really worried about you, they can request to see your location. If everything’s fine, you can deny the request. But if you’re unable to respond within a reasonable timeframe, your location is shared automatically and your loved ones can determine the best way to help you out. Of course, you can stop sharing your location or change your trusted contacts whenever you want.

TrustedContactsGIF

Here’s a little more detail on how Trusted Contacts might work, starring Elliot and Thelma:

Elliot & Thelma

Get help even if your phone’s offline

Elliot heads out for a hike on his own, telling Thelma he’ll meet her for coffee later. About an hour in, Elliot realizes he’s strayed off the path and lost service. When Elliot doesn’t show up at the coffee shop, Thelma starts to worry. Because Trusted Contacts works even if a phone is offline, Thelma requests Elliot’s location and in five minutes can see that his last known location was in the middle of the canyon. Thelma calls the nearest ranger station, they send out a rescue party, and find Elliot in a few hours.

Requesting Location

Invite a trusted friend to virtually walk you home if you feel unsafe

Elliot stayed at the office later than normal and notices it’s awfully dark out. He opens Trusted Contacts and shares his location with Thelma. Now Thelma can walk him home — virtually. When Elliot gets home, he simply taps the banner at the top of the screen or from the lockscreen and stops sharing his location.


Sharing Location

Whether you just need a little reassurance or you’re actually in an emergency, Trusted Contacts helps connect you with the people you care about most — at the times you need them most. Download Trusted Contacts today from the Play Store and visit the help center for more info. If you're an iOS user, click here to get notified when the iOS app is available

Source: Google LatLong


Let your loved ones know you’re safe with our new personal safety app

Whether it’s hiking alone or walking down a street after dark — sometimes you want to know someone's got your back. To help you feel safe and give your friends and family peace of mind, today we're launching Trusted Contacts. This new personal safety app lets you share your location with loved ones in everyday situations and when emergencies arise — even if your phone is offline or you can’t get to it. 

Here’s how it works: Once you install the Android app, you can assign “trusted” status to your closest friends and family. Your trusted contacts will be able to see your activity status — whether you’ve moved around recently and are online — to quickly know if you're OK. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe, you can share your actual location with your trusted contacts. And if your trusted contacts are really worried about you, they can request to see your location. If everything’s fine, you can deny the request. But if you’re unable to respond within a reasonable timeframe, your location is shared automatically and your loved ones can determine the best way to help you out. Of course, you can stop sharing your location or change your trusted contacts whenever you want.

TrustedContactsGIF

Here’s a little more detail on how Trusted Contacts might work, starring Elliot and Thelma:

Elliot & Thelma

Get help even if your phone’s offline

Elliot heads out for a hike on his own, telling Thelma he’ll meet her for coffee later. About an hour in, Elliot realizes he’s strayed off the path and lost service. When Elliot doesn’t show up at the coffee shop, Thelma starts to worry. Because Trusted Contacts works even if a phone is offline, Thelma requests Elliot’s location and in five minutes can see that his last known location was in the middle of the canyon. Thelma calls the nearest ranger station, they send out a rescue party, and find Elliot in a few hours.

Requesting Location

Invite a trusted friend to virtually walk you home if you feel unsafe

Elliot stayed at the office later than normal and notices it’s awfully dark out. He opens Trusted Contacts and shares his location with Thelma. Now Thelma can walk him home — virtually. When Elliot gets home, he simply taps the banner at the top of the screen or from the lockscreen and stops sharing his location.


Sharing Location

Whether you just need a little reassurance or you’re actually in an emergency, Trusted Contacts helps connect you with the people you care about most — at the times you need them most. Download Trusted Contacts today from the Play Store and visit the help center for more info.

Source: Google LatLong


Our most detailed view of Earth across space and time

In 2013, we released Google Earth Timelapse, our most comprehensive picture of the Earth's changing surface. This interactive experience enabled people to explore these changes like never before—to watch the sprouting of Dubai’s artificial Palm Islands, the retreat of Alaska’s Columbia Glacier, and the impressive urban expansion of Las Vegas, Nevada. Today, we're making our largest update to Timelapse yet, with four additional years of imagery, petabytes of new data, and a sharper view of the Earth from 1984 to 2016. We’ve even teamed up again with our friends at TIME to give you an updated take on compelling locations. 

Miruuixiang

Meandering river in Nyingchi, Tibet, China [view in Timelapse] (Image credit: Landsat / Copernicus*)

Leveraging the same techniques we used to improve Google Maps and Google Earth back in June, the new Timelapse reveals a sharper view of our planet, with truer colors and fewer distracting artifacts. A great example of this is San Francisco and Oakland in California:

Bay Bridge
San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge reconstruction [view in Timelapse] (Image credit: Landsat / Copernicus*)

There’s much more to see, including glacial movement in Antarctica, urban growth, forest gain and loss, and infrastructure development:

Using Google Earth Engine, we sifted through about three quadrillion pixels—that's 3 followed by 15 zeroes—from more than 5,000,000 satellite images. For this latest update, we had access to more images from the past, thanks to the Landsat Global Archive Consolidation Program, and fresh images from two new satellites, Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2.

We took the best of all those pixels to create 33 images of the entire planet, one for each year. We then encoded these new 3.95 terapixel global images into just over 25,000,000 overlapping multi-resolution video tiles, made interactively explorable by Carnegie Mellon CREATE Lab's Time Machine library, a technology for creating and viewing zoomable and pannable timelapses over space and time.

Ft. McMurray

Alberta Tar Sands, Canada [View in Timelapse] (Image credit: Landsat / Copernicus*)

To view the new Timelapse, head over to the Earth Engine website. You can also view the new annual mosaics in Google Earth's historical imagery feature on desktop, or spend a mesmerizing 40 minutes watching this YouTube playlist. Happy exploring!

*Landsat imagery courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and U.S. Geological Survey. Images also contain modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2015- 2016.

Source: Google LatLong


A totally rebuilt Sites, customer-tested and open for business

Earlier this year, we announced that a totally rebuilt version of Google Sites was on the way. Since then, we’ve worked with a set of customers through an Early Adopter Program to test the new Sites and fine tune the experience. Today, the new Google Sites is ready for all customers.

We’ve started turning customer feedback into new and improved features.  For example, some customers asked for the ability to measure how much engagement their sites were getting. You can now track site performance with Google Analytics. Other customers asked for more customization and different designs, so you can now choose between six themes to give your site the right look.

Nadia Lee, a product and change manager at Dow Jones, tested the new Sites to build a few informational sites for her teams and had this to say: “Sites is much more user friendly than other tools I’ve used, especially for non-technical people. It’s nice that I can collaborate in real-time with colleagues and see the edits they’re making. And, the final product looks clean and well-designed.”

Since its launch in 2008, Sites has made it possible for employees to build working team and project sites without writing a single line of code (no HTML, CSS or any other all-caps acronym.) But, web technologies have progressed a lot in the past decade, and the new Sites is an even more approachable way to build a site.

Sites as easy to create as a doc

Now, it’s easier than ever to create a site and add text, links, images and more with a quick cut-and-paste, or simply drag-and-drop to rearrange and resize elements on the page.

Sites integrated with your favorite apps

The new Sites is built to work with your favorite Google apps so you can insert content from the tools you use most. It’s easy to embed a schedule from Google Calendar, a video clip from Google Drive, or a location from Google Maps. You can also insert content from Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms and a live version will be presented within the site.

Sites GA GIF

Sites built together

The new Sites is the first truly collaborative tool for building team and project sites. Using the same technology as Google Docs, the new Sites brings real-time, multi-user coauthoring so the whole team can add and update a project site without worrying about conflicts or locked pages.

Sites that are beautiful and functional on any screen

The new Sites also includes themes and layouts designed to intelligently scale and flex to any screen size, so they look great when you access them on a 30-inch monitor at your desk or on your smartphone during your commute. And, an integrated preview mode lets you see what your site will look like on a desktop, a tablet and a smartphone while you’re editing so you can build the most useful team and project sites.

The new Google Sites is open for business. If you’re a G Suite customer with Google Sites enabled, you can get started building on the new Sites now or learn how to enable Sites in the Admin Console. Customers can continue to use classic Sites as we continue to add capabilities and improve the new Sites.

Source: Google LatLong


Two new (and one tried-and-true) ways to get through turkey day with Google Maps

We’re just days away from Thanksgiving – the busiest American travel holiday of the year. Just in time for the mad dash to grandma’s house or your bestie's friendsgiving across town, we’ve got two new and one tried-and-true way for Google Maps to get you where you’re going without the holiday traffic hassle.

Beat event traffic with real-world info 

If you spend Thanksgiving in Chicago, Detroit, Houston or New York City then the local Thanksgiving Day parades are likely a popular pre-feast activity. But what often comes with the fun is gridlock, roadblocks, and longer commute times. This year we’ve incorporated the road closures, transit schedule changes, and detours associated with the parades into Google Maps in each of these cities. Now those headed to the parade – or trying to avoid it – will see the parade route visualized on the map and Google Maps navigation will take into account the real-life local changes when navigating you around these cities.

       

Beat the gridlock with real-time traffic alerts and re-routing

Don’t live in one of those cities? Don’t worry. We’ve already told you the best and worst times to leave for and return from your Thanksgiving road trips and once you’re on your way we’ll keep you on track with traffic alerts and real-time rerouting. Just input your destination and you get alerted about upcoming traffic conditions. While on the road, you’ll get a heads up if congestion lies ahead along with an estimate of how long the delay will be. When a faster alternative route is available, Google Maps will suggest it to you.

Real-time Traffic

Beat the crowds with Popular Times in real-time 

We looked at historical Google Maps data to determine the top five trending locations during the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s safe to say that if you’re planning to stop by a ham shop, outlet mall, pie shop, electronics store, or Christmas tree lot around Thanksgiving, you’ll run into throngs of last minute shoppers and deal hunters just like yourself. So just in time for holiday hordes, we've added a real-time look at how crowded a place is right now to help you decide when to go or whether you should head somewhere else.

 

If you’re dreading a holiday headache, let Google Maps be your Thanksgiving guide to a hassle free holiday.


Source: Google LatLong


Google Earth: The 25-Year Search

Remember back to the time when you first opened Google Earth. Where did you fly? Nearly all of us search for the same place: Home. The starting point. Where we fit into the bigger picture, and one way we define our sense of identity.

Imagine if you didn't know where "home" was? What would you search for first?

In 1986, 5-year-old Saroo Brierley fell asleep on a train parked at a rural station in central India. He awoke to find himself locked in an empty carriage barrelling through the Indian countryside to an unknown destination. After two days and nearly 1600 kilometers, the train reached its final stop, the enormous Howrah station in the sprawling Indian megacity, Kolkata. Saroo disembarked alone, far away from family and no way to get home. Living on the streets for months, Saroo survived a series of harrowing encounters before he was taken to an orphanage. In time, he was adopted by an Australian couple and brought to Tasmania.

Saroo

The Brierleys gave Saroo a loving home and a second chance, but memories of his birth family haunted him. As he grew older, these echos became louder until his early 20's when he was finally compelled to search for his lost home and family. Right around this time, Saroo heard about a new program called Google Earth. He realized he could use the tool's satellite imagery to find familiar landmarks, and lead him to the train station from his fleeting memories of that fateful night. Night after night for three years, Saroo followed train lines from space, combing through thousands of stations until one day in early 2012, he finally found the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Thanks to his unwavering determination, Saroo reunited with his birth mother after 25 years. Saroo's improbable story has been a source of inspiration to all of us on the Earth team and to many around the world. We're especially excited his story will reach new audiences with the release of the new film, Lion, on November 25.
Earth

To celebrate the film's upcoming release, we invite you to retrace Saroo’s journey through the Finding Home experience now available in Google Earth’s Voyager layer. The experience takes you behind-the-scenes of Saroo’s search—what he used to guide him, the odds he faced, and how with a lot of will and a bit of luck, he was able to find home.

Source: Google LatLong